MPs vote to ban pro-life support outside abortion clinics, but Bill is unlikely to become law

MPs have voted in favour of a Bill that would deny women practical and emotional support outside abortion clinics.

Labour MP Dr Rupa Huq’s Demonstrations (Abortion Clinics) Ten Minute Rule Bill passed by 213 votes to 47.

It calls for legislation “to restrict demonstrations in the vicinity of abortion clinics; and for connected purposes.”

However, as it is a Ten Minute Rule Motion it is very unlikely it will be given further time by the Government to be debated in Parliament. It is even less likely that it will become law.

‘Criminalised free speech zones’ would effectively ban volunteers from offering practical and emotional support to women entering abortion clinics across England and Wales. They would also ban individuals from peacefully praying in the vicinity of clinics.

Home Office review

Due to additional powers handed over to councils in 2014 by the former Prime Minister, Theresa May, a number of councils have already introduced localised ‘criminalised free speech zones’, called Public Space Protection Orders. 

Ealing council, in Dr Huq’s constituency, is one such council along with Richmond. In addition, Manchester City Council has consulted its residents on the matter, while seven other councils are reported to be looking into the issue. 

In 2017, former Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, launched a review into the scale and nature of pro-life vigils outside abortion clinics to establish if the Government would recommend the introduction of censorship zones. 

In the investigation continued by the succeeding Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, over 2,500 responded to a call for evidence, including abortion service providers, abortion service clients, those engaging in anti-abortion demonstrations, police forces and local authorities.

In 2018, Sajid Javid announced that the Home Office did not find adequate reason to introduce censorship zones, stating that: “…introducing national buffer zones would not be a proportionate response, considering the experiences of the majority of hospitals and clinics, and considering that the majority of activities are more passive in nature. In making my decision, I am also aware that legislation already exists to restrict protest activities that cause harm to others.”

Abortion lobby’s long-term plan to limit choice

Speaking earlier today, Dr Rupa Huq claimed the Bill “is about the rights of vulnerable women seeking access to healthcare in safety, anonymity and dignity.”

However the Labour MP has been a longtime and proud supporter of abortion provider BPAS’ ‘Back Off’ campaign which calls for nationwide ‘criminalised free speech zones’ which ban peaceful pro-life activity outside abortion clinics.

In a 2017 opinion piece for the Guardian, the Labour MP revealed “ideas have been percolating” on how to go about restricting pro-life demonstrations since January 2017.

‘Drastic overreaction’

Speaking out against the Bill, Conservative MP Fiona Bruce described the motion as “regressive” and a “drastic overreaction” that would undermine freedoms of speech and conscience.

The pro-life MP, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group, said the majority of people gathering outside family planning facilities were acting peacefully.

She told MPs: “Let me clear, I do not condone aggressive protest activities outside abortion clinics.

“But these are in the minority and imposing national legislation where it is not required to tackle these would be a drastic overreaction because of the potential damage this bill could do to the more widely held freedom of speech in this country.”

In her closing remarks, Fiona then shared the testimony of Alina Dulgheriu, just one of many mothers who decided to keep their baby as a result of the practical and emotional support received outside of an abortion clinic.

Alina will soon challenge the use of ‘criminalised free speech zones’ at the European Court of Human Rights.

Explaining why she’s taking the case forward, Alina said: “My little girl is here today because of the real practical and emotional support that I was given by a group outside a Marie Stopes centre, and I am going to appeal this decision to ensure that women do not have this vital support option removed.

“I will continue to stand up for the women whose voices have been sidelined throughout this process and for women who need life-saving support today but cannot get it. 

“It is very clear that many are opposed to Ealing’s ban on peaceful and charitable activity, and like me, they want to see support available to vulnerable women where it is most needed.”

The Be Here for Me website highlights just some of the many stories of women who have been helped by people outside abortion clinics, and the stories of future women who could miss out on such support in the future. 

Widespread opposition

Opposition to censorship zones goes beyond pro-life advocates to a large part of society, which may not agree on the pro-life position on abortion, but oppose censorship zones because they infringe on free speech.

A number of prominent human rights groups and campaigners, all of whom support abortion, have also spoken out against the introduction of censorship zones.

This includes Peter Tatchell, the Manifesto Club, Big Brother Watch, Index on Censorship and the Freedom Association.

A Home Office spokesperson told the Independent: “There are already powers in place for police and local authorities to restrict harmful protests, and the previous home secretary asked the police to work closely with abortion services, to ensure that all those visiting these services are not subjected to harassment or intimation.”

A spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson said: “As this vote was on a Ten Minute Rule Motion, it is very unlikely it will be given further time by the Government to be debated in Parliament. It is even less likely that it will become law.

“By attempting to restrict where women facing unplanned pregnancies can receive compassionate emotional and practical support, the ‘pro-choice’ lobby are removing real choice for women and revealing they’re really just pro-abortion.

“Today, many babies are alive because their mothers were able to get the help they needed outside of an abortion clinic.

“We would, therefore, encourage the Government not to give this Bill any more time.  In doing so they would send a clear signal that women should not be denied the choice of life-saving support for them and their baby.”

Division // Voting list

MPs who voted in favour of the motion 🙁

  • Diane Abbott (Labour – Hackney North and Stoke Newington)
  • Rushanara Ali (Labour – Bethnal Green and Bow)
  • Tahir Ali (Labour – Birmingham, Hall Green)
  • Mike Amesbury (Labour – Weaver Vale)
  • Tonia Antoniazzi (Labour – Gower)
  • Jonathan Ashworth (Labour – Leicester South)
  • Shaun Bailey (Conservative – West Bromwich West)
  • Duncan Baker (Conservative – North Norfolk)
  • Paula Barker (Labour – Liverpool, Wavertree)
  • Simon Baynes (Conservative – Clwyd South)
  • Apsana Begum (Labour – Poplar and Limehouse)
  • Aaron Bell (Conservative – Newcastle-under-Lyme)
  • Clive Betts (Labour – Sheffield South East)
  • Olivia Blake (Labour – Sheffield, Hallam)
  • Crispin Blunt (Conservative – Reigate)
  • Tracy Brabin (Labour – Batley and Spen)
  • Kevin Brennan (Labour – Cardiff West)
  • Sara Britcliffe (Conservative – Hyndburn)
  • Nicholas Brown (Labour – Newcastle upon Tyne East)
  • Lyn Brown (Labour – West Ham)
  • Felicity Buchan (Conservative – Kensington)
  • Karen Buck (Labour – Westminster North)
  • Richard Burgon (Labour – Leeds East)
  • Ian Byrne (Labour – Liverpool, West Derby)
  • Ruth Cadbury (Labour – Brentford and Isleworth)
  • Alan Campbell (Labour – Tynemouth)
  • Dan Carden (Labour – Liverpool, Walton)
  • Alistair Carmichael (Liberal Democrat – Orkney and Shetland)
  • Wendy Chamberlain (Liberal Democrat – North East Fife)
  • Sarah Champion (Labour – Rotherham)
  • Bambos Charalambous (Labour – Enfield, Southgate)
  • Feryal Clark (Labour – Enfield North)
  • Theo Clarke (Conservative – Stafford)
  • Chris Clarkson (Conservative – Heywood and Middleton)
  • Elliot Colburn (Conservative – Carshalton and Wallington)
  • Yvette Cooper (Labour – Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford)
  • Jeremy Corbyn (Labour – Islington North)
  • Neil Coyle (Labour – Bermondsey and Old Southwark)
  • Stella Creasy (Labour – Walthamstow)
  • Tracey Crouch (Conservative – Chatham and Aylesford)
  • John Cryer (Labour – Leyton and Wanstead)
  • Judith Cummins (Labour – Bradford South)
  • Alex Cunningham (Labour – Stockton North)
  • Janet Daby (Labour – Lewisham East)
  • Edward Davey (Liberal Democrat – Kingston and Surbiton)
  • Wayne David (Labour – Caerphilly)
  • James Davies (Conservative – Vale of Clwyd)
  • Geraint Davies (Labour – Swansea West)
  • Alex Davies-Jones (Labour – Pontypridd)
  • Dehenna Davison (Conservative – Bishop Auckland)
  • Thangam Debbonaire (Labour – Bristol West)
  • Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi (Labour – Slough)
  • Stephen Doughty (Labour – Cardiff South and Penarth)
  • Jack Dromey (Labour – Birmingham, Erdington)
  • Maria Eagle (Labour – Garston and Halewood)
  • Angela Eagle (Labour – Wallasey)
  • Mark Eastwood (Conservative – Dewsbury)
  • Clive Efford (Labour – Eltham)
  • Julie Elliott (Labour – Sunderland Central)
  • Chris Elmore (Labour – Ogmore)
  • Florence Eshalomi (Labour – Vauxhall)
  • Bill Esterson (Labour – Sefton Central)
  • Chris Evans (Labour – Islwyn)
  • Michael Fabricant (Conservative – Lichfield)
  • Stephen Farry (Alliance – North Down)
  • Simon Fell (Conservative – Barrow and Furness)
  • Colleen Fletcher (Labour – Coventry North East)
  • Yvonne Fovargue (Labour – Makerfield)
  • Vicky Foxcroft (Labour – Lewisham, Deptford)
  • Mary Kelly Foy (Labour – City of Durham)
  • George Freeman (Conservative – Mid Norfolk)
  • Gill Furniss (Labour – Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough)
  • Barry Gardiner (Labour – Brent North)
  • Nusrat Ghani (Conservative – Wealden)
  • Peter Gibson (Conservative – Darlington)
  • Preet Kaur Gill (Labour – Birmingham, Edgbaston)
  • Richard Graham (Conservative – Gloucester)
  • Kate Green (Labour – Stretford and Urmston)
  • Lilian Greenwood (Labour – Nottingham South)
  • Margaret Greenwood (Labour – Wirral West)
  • Nia Griffith (Labour – Llanelli)
  • Jonathan Gullis (Conservative – Stoke-on-Trent North)
  • Andrew Gwynne (Labour – Denton and Reddish)
  • Louise Haigh (Labour – Sheffield, Heeley)
  • Fabian Hamilton (Labour – Leeds North East)
  • Claire Hanna (Social Democratic & Labour Party – Belfast South)
  • Emma Hardy (Labour – Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle)
  • Carolyn Harris (Labour – Swansea East)
  • Helen Hayes (Labour – Dulwich and West Norwood)
  • Mark Hendrick (Labour – Preston)
  • Darren Henry (Conservative – Broxtowe)
  • Antony Higginbotham (Conservative – Burnley)
  • Mike Hill (Labour – Hartlepool)
  • Wera Hobhouse (Liberal Democrat – Bath)
  • Margaret Hodge (Labour – Barking)
  • Sharon Hodgson (Labour – Washington and Sunderland West)
  • Kate Hollern (Labour – Blackburn)
  • Paul Holmes (Conservative – Eastleigh)
  • Rachel Hopkins (Labour – Luton South)
  • George Howarth (Labour – Knowsley)
  • Rupa Huq (Labour – Ealing Central and Acton)
  • Christine Jardine (Liberal Democrat – Edinburgh West)
  • Dan Jarvis (Labour – Barnsley Central)
  • Bernard Jenkin (Conservative – Harwich and North Essex)
  • Mark Jenkinson (Conservative – Workington)
  • Diana Johnson (Labour – Kingston upon Hull North)
  • Kim Johnson (Labour – Liverpool, Riverside)
  • David Johnston (Conservative – Wantage)
  • Darren Jones (Labour – Bristol North West)
  • Gerald Jones (Labour – Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney)
  • Kevan Jones (Labour – North Durham)
  • Ruth Jones (Labour – Newport West)
  • Sarah Jones (Labour – Croydon Central)
  • Simon Jupp (Conservative – East Devon)
  • Barbara Keeley (Labour – Worsley and Eccles South)
  • Afzal Khan (Labour – Manchester, Gorton)
  • Stephen Kinnock (Labour – Aberavon)
  • Peter Kyle (Labour – Hove)
  • Ben Lake (Plaid Cymru – Ceredigion)
  • Robert Largan (Conservative – High Peak)
  • Emma Lewell-Buck (Labour – South Shields)
  • Tony Lloyd (Labour – Rochdale)
  • Tim Loughton (Conservative – East Worthing and Shoreham)
  • Holly Lynch (Labour – Halifax)
  • Justin Madders (Labour – Ellesmere Port and Neston)
  • Shabana Mahmood (Labour – Birmingham, Ladywood)
  • Seema Malhotra (Labour – Feltham and Heston)
  • Julie Marson (Conservative – Hertford and Stortford)
  • Christian Matheson (Labour – City of Chester)
  • Jerome Mayhew (Conservative – Broadland)
  • Steve McCabe (Labour – Birmingham, Selly Oak)
  • Kerry McCarthy (Labour – Bristol East)
  • Jason McCartney (Conservative – Colne Valley)
  • Andy McDonald (Labour – Middlesbrough)
  • John McDonnell (Labour – Hayes and Harlington)
  • Pat McFadden (Labour – Wolverhampton South East)
  • Ian Mearns (Labour – Gateshead)
  • Huw Merriman (Conservative – Bexhill and Battle)
  • Maria Miller (Conservative – Basingstoke)
  • Navendu Mishra (Labour – Stockport)
  • Gagan Mohindra (Conservative – South West Hertfordshire)
  • Robbie Moore (Conservative – Keighley)
  • Jessica Morden (Labour – Newport East)
  • Grahame Morris (Labour – Easington)
  • Kieran Mullan (Conservative – Crewe and Nantwich)
  • Holly Mumby-Croft (Conservative – Scunthorpe)
  • Ian Murray (Labour – Edinburgh South)
  • James Murray (Labour – Ealing North)
  • Lisa Nandy (Labour – Wigan)
  • Caroline Nokes (Conservative – Romsey and Southampton North)
  • Alex Norris (Labour – Nottingham North)
  • Matthew Offord (Conservative – Hendon)
  • Chi Onwurah (Labour – Newcastle upon Tyne Central)
  • Abena Oppong-Asare (Labour – Erith and Thamesmead)
  • Kate Osamor (Labour – Edmonton)
  • Taiwo Owatemi (Labour – Coventry North West)
  • Sarah Owen (Labour – Luton North)
  • Stephanie Peacock (Labour – Barnsley East)
  • Mike Penning (Conservative – Hemel Hempstead)
  • Matthew Pennycook (Labour – Greenwich and Woolwich)
  • John Penrose (Conservative – Weston-super-Mare)
  • Jess Phillips (Labour – Birmingham, Yardley)
  • Bridget Phillipson (Labour – Houghton and Sunderland South)
  • Luke Pollard (Labour – Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport)
  • Dan Poulter (Conservative – Central Suffolk and North Ipswich)
  • Lucy Powell (Labour – Manchester Central)
  • Yasmin Qureshi (Labour – Bolton South East)
  • Tom Randall (Conservative – Gedling)
  • Steve Reed (Labour – Croydon North)
  • Christina Rees (Labour – Neath)
  • Ellie Reeves (Labour – Lewisham West and Penge)
  • Bell Ribeiro-Addy (Labour – Streatham)
  • Nicola Richards (Conservative – West Bromwich East)
  • Angela Richardson (Conservative – Guildford)
  • Matt Rodda (Labour – Reading East)
  • Dean Russell (Conservative – Watford)
  • Liz Saville Roberts (Plaid Cymru – Dwyfor Meirionnydd)
  • Selaine Saxby (Conservative – North Devon)
  • Naz Shah (Labour – Bradford West)
  • Virendra Sharma (Labour – Ealing, Southall)
  • Barry Sheerman (Labour – Huddersfield)
  • David Simmonds (Conservative – Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner)
  • Andy Slaughter (Labour – Hammersmith)
  • Cat Smith (Labour – Lancaster and Fleetwood)
  • Nick Smith (Labour – Blaenau Gwent)
  • Karin Smyth (Labour – Bristol South)
  • Alex Sobel (Labour – Leeds North West)
  • John Spellar (Labour – Warley)
  • Ben Spencer (Conservative – Runnymede and Weybridge)
  • Keir Starmer (Labour – Holborn and St Pancras)
  • Jo Stevens (Labour – Cardiff Central)
  • Wes Streeting (Labour – Ilford North)
  • Graham Stringer (Labour – Blackley and Broughton)
  • Julian Sturdy (Conservative – York Outer)
  • Zarah Sultana (Labour – Coventry South)
  • James Sunderland (Conservative – Bracknell)
  • Sam Tarry (Labour – Ilford South)
  • Nick Thomas-Symonds (Labour – Torfaen)
  • Jon Trickett (Labour – Hemsworth)
  • Karl Turner (Labour – Kingston upon Hull East)
  • Liz Twist (Labour – Blaydon)
  • Valerie Vaz (Labour – Walsall South)
  • Christian Wakeford (Conservative – Bury South)
  • Giles Watling (Conservative – Clacton)
  • Catherine West (Labour – Hornsey and Wood Green)
  • Matt Western (Labour – Warwick and Leamington)
  • Alan Whitehead (Labour – Southampton, Test)
  • Mick Whitley (Labour – Birkenhead)
  • Nadia Whittome (Labour – Nottingham East)
  • Hywel Williams (Plaid Cymru – Arfon)
  • William Wragg (Conservative – Hazel Grove)
  • Mohammad Yasin (Labour – Bedford)
  • Daniel Zeichner (Labour – Cambridge)

MPs who voted against the motion 🙂

  • David Amess (Conservative – Southend West)
  • Lee Anderson (Conservative – Ashfield)
  • Stuart Anderson (Conservative – Wolverhampton South West)
  • Gareth Bacon (Conservative – Orpington)
  • Scott Benton (Conservative – Blackpool South)
  • Bob Blackman (Conservative – Harrow East)
  • Fiona Bruce (Conservative – Congleton)
  • Lisa Cameron (Scottish National Party – East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow)
  • Andy Carter (Conservative – Warrington South)
  • Miriam Cates (Conservative – Penistone and Stocksbridge)
  • Brendan Clarke-Smith (Conservative – Bassetlaw)
  • Rosie Cooper (Labour – West Lancashire)
  • James Daly (Conservative – Bury North)
  • Gareth Davies (Conservative – Grantham and Stamford)
  • Jeffrey M Donaldson (Democratic Unionist Party – Lagan Valley)
  • Iain Duncan Smith (Conservative – Chingford and Woodford Green)
  • Katherine Fletcher (Conservative – South Ribble)
  • Nick Fletcher (Conservative – Don Valley)
  • Liam Fox (Conservative – North Somerset)
  • Richard Fuller (Conservative – North East Bedfordshire)
  • Robert Goodwill (Conservative – Scarborough and Whitby)
  • Kate Griffiths (Conservative – Burton)
  • Sally-Ann Hart (Conservative – Hastings and Rye)
  • Gordon Henderson (Conservative – Sittingbourne and Sheppey)
  • Philip Hollobone (Conservative – Kettering)
  • Tom Hunt (Conservative – Ipswich)
  • Daniel Kawczynski (Conservative – Shrewsbury and Atcham)
  • Danny Kruger (Conservative – Devizes)
  • Chris Loder (Conservative – West Dorset)
  • Marco Longhi (Conservative – Dudley North)
  • Karl McCartney (Conservative – Lincoln)
  • Mark Menzies (Conservative – Fylde)
  • Robin Millar (Conservative – Aberconwy)
  • Lia Nici (Conservative – Great Grimsby)
  • Ian Paisley (Democratic Unionist Party – North Antrim)
  • Mark Pawsey (Conservative – Rugby)
  • John Redwood (Conservative – Wokingham)
  • Mary Robinson (Conservative – Cheadle)
  • Gary Sambrook (Conservative – Birmingham, Northfield)
  • Andrew Selous (Conservative – South West Bedfordshire)
  • Greg Smith (Conservative – Buckingham)
  • Alexander Stafford (Conservative – Rother Valley)
  • Jane Stevenson (Conservative – Wolverhampton North East)
  • Desmond Swayne (Conservative – New Forest West)
  • Martin Vickers (Conservative – Cleethorpes)
  • Craig Whittaker (Conservative – Calder Valley)
  • Jeremy Wright (Conservative – Kenilworth and Southam)

UK Government has no intention of reviewing assisted suicide law – Lord Chancellor

The Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland QC has confirmed that the UK Government has no intention of reviewing the UK’s assisted suicide law.

He also shared that personal “grave doubts” he has over the ability of any assisted suicide legislation to protect vulnerable people from unintended consequences and abuse stemming from a change in law.

The comments were made in response to a question asked by Congleton MP and member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Fiona Bruce, during a remote meeting of the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

Fiona Bruce MP, who is also chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group, had sought assurances from the Lord Chancellor that there would be no change in law after noting that people had “become more aware during this crisis of how precious every human life is.”

In his response, Mr Buckland said: “we [the Government] don’t currently have any plans to initiate a review of the law in this area or to indeed publish a call for evidence.”

Alluding to the attempts by activists to introduce assisted suicide legislation through the UK courts, he stated the issue of assisted suicide is a conscience issue for Parliament to decide rather than one for Court or Government.

In November, the High Court rejected a judicial review of the current law on assisted suicide, with judges stating the court was “not an appropriate forum for the discussion of the sanctity of life”. The Court of Appeal rejected an attempt to challenge this decision earlier this year.

Similarly, in 2018, the Court of Appeal ruled that Parliament was a “better forum” than the courts for determining the issue of legalising assisted suicide.

Parliament has consistently rejected attempts by the assisted suicide lobby to introduce assisted suicide, with 330 to 118 voting against introducing assisted suicide in 2015. 

Earlier this year, strong opposition from MPs resulted in the Government rejecting an earlier call for review on assisted suicide, despite the best efforts from large pressure groups in favour of assisted suicide.

Assisted suicide pressure groups cite a poll that shows there is widespread support for legislation of assisted suicide, yet experts have heavily criticised the polling as deeply flawed. In fact, when asked questions that drill down into the merits of the debate, the percentage of those in support drops dramatically.

In addition to lobbying the Government and parliament, activists have been seeking to lobby medical bodies in the UK.

Despite this, not a single doctors’ group or major disability rights organisation in the UK supports changing the law, including the British Medical Association (BMA), the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Royal College of Physicians, the British Geriatric Society and the Association for Palliative Medicine. 

In a move welcomed by pro-life groups, the Royal College of Physicians recently released a statement on its website clarifying that it does not support a change in the law on assisted suicide. The clarification comes after the medical body changed its official stance on the matter to neutral last year.

The Royal College of General Practitioners announced in February that it will continue to oppose a change in law on assisted suicide, following a consultation of its 50,000 members.  

The BMA, which is currently opposed to assisted suicide, has launched its first-ever survey on the issue. The poll will ask their 160,000 members for their views “on whether the BMA should adopt a neutral position with respect to a change in the law on assisted dying”. The results of the British Medical Association survey will be revealed later this year.

Assisted suicide pressure group Dignity in Dying (formerly the Voluntary Euthanasia Society), which spent over £1,600,000 last year, said in an email to supporters “that the poll is happening is a significant win” for their campaign. Meanwhile, a large group of palliative care doctors have written to The Times calling on the BMA to continue opposing the involvement of doctors and ensuring that assisted dying will not become a medical intervention in the UK.

A spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson said: 

“Despite the best efforts of well-resourced assisted suicide activists, the Lord Chancellor’s statement is very clear and is particularly welcome during this current crisis.

“The concerns raised by a large number of MPs earlier this year highlighted just a small number of the reasons why the Government should look away from assisted suicide and instead fund better hospice and palliative care. 

“Any legislative change could place many vulnerable people at risk of abuse and put pressure on those with terminal and chronic illnesses and on the disabled to end their lives prematurely.

“Evidence from Oregon demonstrates how a so-called ‘right to die’ may become the ‘duty to die’. Feelings of being a burden were cited in 55% of Oregon and 56% of Washington assisted-suicide requests in 2017.

“This is especially the case when families and health budgets are under financial pressure, which makes the Canadian study which found that the legalisation of assisted suicide could save the health care system more than $138 million per year so alarming.

“Legalising assisted suicide would likely lead to pressure on vulnerable people to choose the quicker, cheaper option of death over palliative care.”

Government rejects call for a review into assisted suicide, after strong opposition from MPs

Strong opposition from MPs has resulted in the Government rejecting calls for a review on assisted suicide despite the best efforts from large pressure groups in favour of assisted suicide.

This follows the news that an attempt to introduce assisted suicide to the Isle of Man has failed

MPs received thousands of emails from constituents ahead of the debate urging them to attend and speak in opposition to the assisted suicide lobby’s campaign.

A large turnout of MPs, including Sir Desmond Swayne, Sir John Hayes, Fiona Bruce, Dr Lisa Cameron, Andrew Selous and Martin Vickers spoke strongly against assisted suicide in the debate. 

Fiona Bruce, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group, said disability groups are “extremely concerned” about what has happened in other countries that have introduced assisted suicide legislation. 

She noted that in the US State of Oregon the majority of those applying for assisted suicide now cite “fear of being a burden” as their major end-of-life concern. Adding that “far fewer cite pain concerns.” 

In Canada, “under the 2016 law that has allowed terminally ill people to request assisted suicide and euthanasia, safeguards have been ignored, removed and extended to non-terminally ill people such as those with depression.”

“In July a depressed but otherwise healthy man was killed by lethal injection, despite not being terminally ill. Another man who suffers from a neurological disease actually recorded hospital staff offering him a medically assisted death, despite repeated statements that he did not want to die. 

“Only this week, on Tuesday, there was an article in The Times about three Belgian doctors on trial in relation to the euthanasia of someone reported to have a personality disorder and autism. The family believes that she was depressed but that she did not, as required by Belgian law, have a serious and incurable disorder.”

In these cases, she said: “The point to note is that, regardless of the wording of eligibility criteria in legislation, in practice safeguards are often discarded, and vulnerable and depressed people are assisted to end their lives.”

“Rather than assisting vulnerable people to commit suicide, or administering euthanasia, we should be looking to improve palliative care provision and mental health treatment… Marie Curie estimates that 25% of cancer patients do not currently get the palliative care that they need.”

Rounding off her speech, she exclaimed: “The UK is a pioneer in palliative medicine and a world leader in palliative care. Let us keep it that way!”

A large number of MPs mirrored Fiona’s call for improved mental-health and palliative care, over the introduction of an extreme assisted suicide law, in a renewed effort to assist people to live. 

Dr Lisa Cameron, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Disability, said: “Often, when people face debilitating illness or very difficult life events, suicide may come to their minds. Does she agree that at such times, we should provide better mental health support, psychological support and counselling to enable people to come to terms with their feelings and look much more positively towards their abilities and the contribution they make?” 

Expressing his concerns about a potential review into the law on assisted suicide, Jim Shannon argued: “The answer is not legalising assisted suicide. The answer is to help, to support and to be compassionate towards families. Does she acknowledge the good work that is done by many charities, particularly Macmillan, whose compassion and love make the unimaginable a little bit more bearable?”

His fellow DUP colleague, Ian Paisley, continued this point by saying: “We should be asking the positive, strong question: how much palliative care and support can we give people at the greatest point of need?”

He added: “We parliamentarians should be prepared to offer hope to people, not to say, as others have said, ‘You’re now a burden. It’s time to shuffle off this mortal coil.’” 

Baroness Finlay has introduced an Access to Palliative Care and Treatment of Children Bill to the House of Lords. This bill aims to highlight the necessity of speciality training for palliative care; to ensure that children, babies, and those with learning disabilities receive palliative care; and, the responsibility of Clinical Commissioning Groups to identify, fund support and provide services to those with palliative care needs.

Other concerns raised by MPs included the change it would bring in the relationship between a doctor and a patient. 

Martin Vickers MP said the relationship between a doctor and patient is one the UK should treasure. “Rather than opening the door to assisting us to die, patients—all of us—need to have confidence that our medical professionals are striving to keep us in good health and alive,” he added.

Extending this point, Sir Desmond Swayne MP noted the large number of assisted suicide deaths in the Netherlands and asked wether we are prepared to “fundamentally change the nature of the medical profession, when the clinician who brings healing is also the clinician who brings death?”

Another argument made by MPs was the valuation of life, and how legalising assisted suicide would fundamentally change how we value life as a society. Making this point was Sir John Hayes MP who said: “Although life, as I have described it, is momentary, each moment is precious. The life of profoundly disabled people is precious, and the life of those weak, wizened, sick and infirm people is precious.”

Highlighting how the valuation of life would change, Andrew Selous MP said: “We need to be very careful to ensure that old and sick people do not feel a pressure to end their lives, perhaps from their children, who might want to inherit their assets and to whom they may feel they are being a burden.”

Not a single doctors group or major disability rights organisation in the UK supports changing the law, including the British Medical Association, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Royal College of Physicians, the British Geriatric Society and the Association for Palliative Medicine.    

Parliament has consistently rejected attempts by the assisted suicide lobby to introduce assisted suicide, with 330 to 118 voting against introducing assisted suicide in 2015. 

Assisted suicide pressure groups cite a poll that shows there is widespread support for legislation of assisted suicide, yet experts have heavily criticised the polling as deeply flawed. In fact, when asked questions that drill down into the merits of the debate, the percentage of those in support drops dramatically.

Government recognises large numbers of pro-life voices during debate on proposed abortion framework in Northern Ireland

A number of pro-life MPs from across the political spectrum have expressed their dismay that Westminster is continuing with its plans to impose an extreme abortion law on Northern Ireland. 

The debate, which took place in the House of Commons on Wednesday evening, heard politicians rally in defence of unborn children, to respect devolution in Northern Ireland and to reverse Westminster’s extreme abortion regime imposed upon Northern Ireland.

Opening the debate, in place of Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith, a Minister for Northern Ireland and Conservative MP Robin Walker said: “the Government are working towards the laying of regulations for a new legal framework for the provision of abortion services in Northern Ireland, as required by the 2019 Act.” 

He confirmed the new framework will be in force by 31 March 2020.

However, a number of MPs have expressed deep concern that the proposed legislation goes far beyond what the Government was required to do by the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 and could lead to abortion, for any reason, up to 24 weeks.

Conservative MP Fiona Bruce said she was deeply concerned by the width and breadth of the consultation raising concerns in her mind about possible changes to abortion law in Northern Ireland going much further than anticipated.

She added: “I am deeply concerned that the abortion framework that may be proposed by the Northern Ireland Office might go far beyond those three circumstances. For example, it may allow for access to abortion on request for any reason up to 12 weeks’ gestation, and then up to 24 weeks.”

Fiona Bruce also revealed that a number of clinicians in Northern Ireland are deeply concerned about their right to ​conscientiously object to engagement in abortion treatment procedures, and may not be given the same protections they have in England and Wales.

DUP MP Jim Shannon echoed Fiona Bruce’s concerns – that the proposed changes to abortion law in Northern Ireland go further than required, quoting the expert legal opinion of David Scoffield QC which stated:

“The question posed to me is essentially whether, if the… Secretary of State… determined to do no more than necessary to comply with his strict legal obligations under the 2019 Act, the proposals set out in the consultation go beyond this… I consider it to be relatively simple to conclude that the answer to this question is ‘yes’.”

Jim Shannon then asked the Northern Ireland Office to reconsider their “radical proposals”, saying they “constitute a clear political choice on the part of the NIO to undermine devolution to a greater extent than the 2017 to 2019 Parliament required…, which would effectively lead to abortion on request for any reason between 12 or 14 weeks’ and 22 or 24 weeks’ gestation.”

Under one of the proposed options being consulted on, abortion could be available for any reason, up to birth, for babies with Down’s syndrome, cleft lip, club foot and other perceived disabilities.

Dr Lisa Cameron, who received hundreds of abusive messages and a threat of deselection for voting against imposing extreme abortion legislation in Northern Ireland, raised concerns from the Don’t Screen Us Out community, who are particularly concerned about the scope of the regulations and the impact on families with Down’s syndrome children.

“I hope that the Minister will comment on whether there has been consultation with that group [Don’t Screen Us Out], because, as I am sure the hon. Lady would agree, that would be very helpful.”

In her maiden speech in the House of Commons, DUP MP Carla Lockhart defended the right to life of unborn babies and called for the Government to respect devolution in Northern Ireland.

“I want a society in Northern Ireland that values life, and I want to see services that will help women choose life. We want to see a perinatal palliative care centre, a maternal mental health unit and better childcare services, and that is my ask of this Government. Help us create a culture of choosing life, as opposed to killing an innocent little baby that does not have the voice to say, ’No, mummy!’

“It is incomprehensible that the Government, knowing that abortion was a devolved matter, have published consultation proposals to introduce changes that go far beyond what has actually been required by Parliament.”

However, Alliance MP Stephen Farry stated he was “content” that Westminster had ignored devolution and imposed extreme legislation on Northern Ireland.

Labour MP Tony Lloyd seemed to agree with the sentiment saying: “if the Assembly were to legislate contrary to the UK Government’s establishment of a process for safe and legal abortion, our efforts would have been futile.”

Closing the debate, Robin Walker, stated how, in the previous debate on Northern Ireland, he was “getting beaten up very heavily by pro-choice colleagues on the Opposition Benches,” yet, “on this occasion, perhaps the voice was slightly louder from the pro-life people, who I am happy to meet to try to address their concerns further, to ensure that we take this forward in the best possible way and in a way that is respectful of the concerns in the community in Northern Ireland and more widely.”